No matter what you print on, every screen printer uses a squeegee. There are wood squeegees, aluminum squeegees, small squeegees, large squeegees, and the list goes on. With so many options, there’s a squeegee for every kind of printer. Which one is for you? Here’s everything you need to know about squeegees.
SQUEEGEE HANDLE TYPE
There are three main types of squeegees for manual screen printing: wood handles, aluminum handles, and the EZ grip handle. Wood-handled squeegees are the most economical option and are found in just about every screen print shop, no matter the size. The wood handle is curved to the printer’s hand so it’s easy to hold and pull.
Next up, aluminum-handled squeegees. Squeegees with aluminum handles, like the Ergo-Force squeegee, are ergonomically shaped to the hand, making them super easy to pull and helping your shoulders and wrists stay intact.
Lastly, the EZ Grip Squeegee. This squeegee has two handles that make holding the squeegee and pulling easy. Printers can do long print runs without worrying about their wrists. It’s a game-changer for many printers.
Now that you know about squeegee handle material, it’s time to talk durometer.
Some squeegees are harder, some feel softer. Why is that? Squeegees have different durometers. Durometers measure the hardness of the blades. Specific print jobs require harder or softer blades. The thinner the ink or more detailed the design, the harder squeegee durometer you’ll want for the job.
A 70-durometer squeegee is by far the most popular and versatile in the garment industry. It’s a great, general-purpose blade for everything from spot colors to halftones. The majority of printers use the 70-durometer as their first squeegee blade.
HARD DUROMETER SQUEEGEES
Printers creating designs with tons of detail should look into a harder durometer squeegee. The harder the durometer of the squeegee, the less ink will be pushed through the screen.
Eighty-durometer squeegees are hard and leave a minimal ink deposit. These squeegees are best for designs going through higher mesh counts with lots of complex details or fine halftones where a thin ink deposit is needed for design clarity.
SOFT DUROEMTER SQUEEGEES
Printing with thick inks like metallic gold plastisol ink requires a softer squeegee durometer. 60 durometer is one of the softest blades available. It allows for a thicker ink deposit through lower mesh counts. The durometer is ideal for special effects like puff, glitters, shimmers, and high-density applications.
TRIPLE DUROMETER SQUEEGEES
Want the best of both worlds? Check out triple-durometer squeegees. 70/90/70 triple durometer gives you the benefits of the 70 durometer blade edge, allowing for a good deposit of ink. The 90-durometer spine allows greater pressure to be applied during printing with minimal squeegee blade deflection. This squeegee blade allows for more ink to be laid down compared to an 80 durometer blade.
SQUEEGEE PRO TIPS
Handle material and durometer are important. To keep your squeegees performing at 100%, here are a few more tips.
This seems like a no-brainer, but let’s talk about it anyway: how many squeegees should you have? The answer is a lot. Unless you only print single-color designs and clean your squeegee after every job, you’ll want at least the same amount of squeegees as color arms on your press. If you have a 4-color press, buy at least four squeegees, so you can utilize all the print heads at once.
Having squeegees of different sizes can also be a big help. You won’t need a 12” squeegee for printing 4” left-chest prints. Having a small arsenal of squeegees might seem excessive at first, but will help a ton in the long run.
Squeegees should be at least an inch wider than the design you’re printing. Want to print large designs? To print an oversized design, you need bigger squeegees. Having a larger squeegee means it will clear the image area easily and consistently. The squeegee you choose should be at least an inch wider than the image you’re printing on either side. Squeegees come in many sizes, so you won’t have a problem with finding the best one for your job.
A great starting point for printing with sizeable squeegees is 15”. Once you start printing bigger and bigger designs, you’ll want to keep the squeegee 1”-2” wider than the design. A 16” or 18” squeegee can handle pretty much any oversized job you’ll be printing on a manual press.
Now, let’s talk cleanup and storage. Clean your squeegees often. This will keep your blades free of ink, and you’ll always have a squeegee or two available for multi-color printing. If all your squeegees are inked-up, you can’t print!
Squeegees should be stored flat or blade facing up. Storing a squeegee with the blade facing down, especially if it’s standing on the blade, can cause the blade to bend and warp over time. A squeegee rack is a common storage tool that keeps squeegees out of the way, while also storing them properly. Buy one or create your own easily.
As with every aspect of screen printing, there’s always more to learn about squeegees: angle, pressure, and more. To learn more about squeegees, pre-press preparation, and printing, check out the free course How to Screen Print with a Kit: 150 Edition. Keep your squeegees clean and safe, and they’ll reward you with crisp prints day in and day out.